Most of us have heard of hearing the crow of a rooster at the crack of dawn to wake you up. While this isn’t a familiar noise you’ll hear in urban and even suburban areas, unless that’s what your alarm clock is set to, if you’ve ever visited a farm or live on one, you know this sound all too well.
But, have you ever caught yourself wondering if a rooster is a male chicken or if it’s an entirely different animal? You’re not alone.
Are roosters male chickens? Roosters are, in fact, male chickens. There is a myth that all chickens are female, and then roosters are their male counterparts, but they’re different animals. The idea that roosters are not chickens is not true. A chicken is a type of bird, and both roosters and hens are considered chickens.
Just like female chickens are often known as hens, male chickens are known as roosters or cocks. Anytime you have a baby male chicken, it will grow up to be a rooster, regardless of the breed of chicken.
Different Names for Male Chickens
Similar to how we as humans have different names for different life stages, so do male chickens. All male chickens will grow up to be roosters, but what are the other terms these animals go by before they reach the age when they’re officially considered roosters?
When you have baby chickens running around, many people refer to them as baby chickens. That’s perfectly okay. But there are proper names for each stage of life for these animals. For example, when you have a male chicken between eight to 12 weeks of age and weighs two or three pounds, it’s called a broiler.
When your broiler reaches 12 weeks, its official name changes to either a fryer or roaster. The term Fryer is used between 12 to 14 weeks when the chicken weighs three to four pounds. When your broiler is between 12 and 14 weeks but weighs four to six pounds, it’s known as a roaster.
After the 14 weeks have passed, your male chicken is known as a cockerel until they reach one year old. Once the cockerel is a year old, they’re officially known as a rooster or a cock. Technically speaking, when the animal reaches 16 to 24 weeks, they’re formally adult chickens, but many still refer to them as cockerels until they’re a year old.
How to Spot a Rooster
Generally speaking, most people know what an adult and baby chicken looks like. But now that you know for a fact that a male chicken is a rooster, how do you spot the difference between a hen (adult female chicken) and a rooster?
The differences between roosters and hens may vary depending on the breed of chicken, but overall, these differences will be similar across the board. When chickens are fully grown, it’s pretty easy to spot the difference between hens and roosters. The difference you’ll notice between a rooster and a hen is their size. Hens are generally much smaller than roosters.
Another way to tell the difference between an adult male chicken and an adult female chicken is that roosters have larger combs on the top of their heads. They also have larger wattles, the things hanging from their cheeks. Both the comb and wattles tend to be more vibrant and red as well.
The last primary way to tell them apart is that hens are the only ones that can lay eggs.
RELATED: Do Swans Eat Fish?
That cock-a-doodle-doo noise that pretty much everyone associates with a wake-up call is traditionally made by roosters. Their crows are much louder than hens, which helps tell them apart if you’re not looking at them. Hens typically don’t crow, but it’s not impossible. Sometimes hens will let out a crow, but normally it won’t be nearly as loud as a rooster’s.
It’s a little more difficult to tell male chickens from female chickens when they’re younger. When your hen’s eggs are hatching, all the babies are going to look very similar. Even if they look a little different due to their coloring, figuring out their sex is not something you’ll be able to do right away.
You won’t be able to tell the sex of your chicken until four to six weeks. While you can technically figure out the sex of the chickens at this age, it’s still extremely difficult if you’ve never done it before. There are markers you can look for and videos on the internet to instruct you.
But the best thing to do is wait a couple of weeks. As the chickens age, their combs will start to become more prominent. Those baby chickens that have larger combs than their counterparts are most likely going to be roosters.
Fun Facts About Roosters
If you’ve ever seen a rooster, you may have noticed they have longer and often prettier feathers on their backs and near their behinds. Hens don’t always have lovely feathers, and if they do, rooster feathers are considered more beautiful.
Their more handsome and more colorful feathers are actually for a reason. Hens look for roosters that have prominent feathers when they’re looking for a mate. Besides looking for bright-colored feathers, the bigger the red comb on the rooster’s head, the more appealing hens will find them.
Many people assume that roosters can’t live well with other roosters. Roosters can become territorial and mean, but it’s not impossible to have more than one rooster in one habitat. It’s easier to have two or more roosters together if they were raised together from a young age.
READ NEXT: Are Penguins Smart?
Roosters often help keep all the hens in order. Hens can also become territorial and get irritated with one another. Roosters will assume the alpha role and keep their fighting to a minimum.
All male chickens will grow up to be roosters or cocks. Contrary to popular belief, roosters aren’t a separate breed from chickens. Rooster and cock are the proper terms for adult male chickens, even though they do have other unique names for different life stages.